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Hinkemeyer, Carlson enter Viking Speedway HOF

Jeff Hinkemeyer (left) of St. Cloud and Tom Carlson of Alexandria were enshrined into the Viking Speedway Hall of Fame on Saturday. (Contributed photo by Larry Holverson)

One could label Jeff Hinkemeyer of St. Cloud the dominator and Tom Carlson of Alexandria the investigator, as both have been longtime members of the Viking Speedway. The two were inducted into the Viking Speedway Hall of Fame last Saturday, August 10.

Tom Carlson

After watching his first race at Viking Speedway, Carlson knew that was what he wanted.

In 1965 at the age of 15, Carlson and several of his friends, Larry Olson, Jim Danielson, Rocky Engstrom and his brother Don, pooled together and built a 1953 Chevrolet powered by a six-cylinder motor. Olson and D. Carlson piloted the car.

In 1966, Carlson continued building race cars and with new speedway rules, cars were allowed to run V8 engines in that same 1953 car. Dave Johnson was behind the wheel that year.

Carlson then became a member of the Les Chermak race team, building and maintaining that car for the next two seasons.

He spent the next four years in the U.S. Air Force. When he returned in 1974 he was back at the big half-mile.

He was not building cars though, but helped as an official scorer, working with Al Bakke. Carlson also lined up the cars for each race.

Beginning in 1975, Carlson became a member of the Ron Pease race team for five campaigns. Pease was inducted into the speedway HOF two years ago.

In 1987, the Viking Speedway became a NASCAR track. Promoter Stu Olson asked Carlson if he was interested in being a tech/inspector of the late model division.

Carlson is noted as the master of engines, and when the Viking Speedway needed a tech inspector, Carlson agreed and has headed that position for the past 27 years. He worked with Dave Gilbertson for several seasons before Gilbertson went back to racing.

Carlson is now inspecting all classes of cars on a weekly basis with the speedway running under the WISSOTA banner.

"When I take the cars in, safety is the number one concern," pointed out Carlson. "Then checking the car over to make sure it meets the rules for that class of cars and that it has exhaust mufflers."

Carlson noted he got his engine knowledge from being involved with building a number of engines.

He has seen a lot of changes at the local half-mile during his tenure as tech inspector.

"Huge changes," noted Carlson. "The building of race cars is mostly for the better," he pointed out. "The cars years back were mostly home built. Now they are specially manufactured, which offers a safer, faster and high tech race car."

His leadership, tech expertise and support of the Viking Speedway is one of the reasons Viking Speedway is still one of the nation's best ovals after 48 seasons.

When he is not working at the Viking oval, he is an auto technician at Koep's Korner in Alexandria.

He and his wife, Joan have two children, son, Jon and daughter, Becky

Carlson also helped his son, Jon in the pits at the Runestone Raceway several years ago.

Jeff Hinkemeyer

Hinkemeyer began his long and highly successful 30-year racing career at the age of 17, back in 1976. He was a junior in high school then and his car number was 13.

His first car was a Camaro bodied late model utilizing an Ed Sanger chassis.

His first feature win was in a late model at Princeton Speedway in 1977. Eight years later he climbed in behind the wheel of another successful race car, owned by Joe and Audrey Salner.

Salner raced the 4F machine starting in 1954 and raced up until 1986. Doctors told him that he should stop driving. Hinkemeyer was already a proven winner and when Salner hired him, the sky was the limit. Over the years they accumulated more than 200 feature wins and 21 track championships.

That combo blew away the competition for the next decade, winning eight late model point championships at the Viking oval alone. He won titles in 1979, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1999 and 2008.

Hinkemeyer dominated during the 1990s. He has raced at more than 40 tracks in 10 states and 10 Canadian provinces.

"Most of our success was the result of hard work and preparation," pointed out Hinkemeyer.

"We were fortunate to have good handling cars with a strong motor program and were constantly searching for the next speed secret," continued the NASCAR champion.

In addition to his eight point titles at the Viking Speedway, Hinkemeyer has won late model track championships at Cedar Lake, Princeton, St. Cloud (Golden Spike), Hibbing, Proctor, Superior, Fergus Falls, Sauk Centre and Grand Forks.

Hinkemeyer enjoyed his career with the Salners.

"It was fun driving top notch equipment and the combination of the two teams ended up being very successful for both teams. It was really a win/win situation for both teams," pointed out Hinkemeyer.

In six years they won five championships at Alexandria and in 1989 they captured Nascar's Great Northern Region Championship. Hinkemeyer pointed out the team was all about racing and chased the points for years.

That all changed when car owner Salner passed away and they all took a step back to re-evaluate the situation. They did decide to keep on racing but to race where they wanted to and not be tied down to just racing at the same track.

Winning the NASCAR Great Northern Region along with the two Silver 1000 wins in Proctor are among the race wins he cherishes most during his career. The Kasson Thunderbird Open and one WISSOTA series victory have also been among his most cherished race wins.

Hinkemeyer is also a member of the Proctor Speedway Hall of Fame. He has not raced since 2011 because of health reasons. Hinkemeyer was the NASCAR Great Northern Region point champion in 1989.

For his career, he captured 21 season track championships. Proctor was Hinkemeyer's favorite track to race at although he definitely considered Alexandria his home track.

In 1990, Hinkemeyer won the points championship for the NASCAR Great Northern Region while winning 18 of 22 features at the Viking Speedway that year. He also finished third in points while running the highly competitive Bush All-Star Tour in 1986, racing against the likes of Steve and Joe Kosiski, Gary Webb, Ray Guss Jr., and others.

Hinkemeyer also emphasized that over the years support has come from longtime crew members Scott Salner, Scott Zenner, Al and Chris Mohs along with Brad Knott and Jason Lofdahl.

He also noted his wife, Kathy along with his children, Brad, Brent and Vicki also provided support.

Jeff's dad, Glen and Joe Salner were the biggest influences in Hinkemeyer's racing career.